December 10, 2015

Joshua Tree National Park

"We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important 
than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us."
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Total Solitude, and get this, we are in a National Park campground with the closest campers 3 miles away. 

Joshua Tree National Park is a masterpiece of creation and we highly recommend a planned visit or multi-day stay. A land sculpted by strong winds and the occasional torrents of rain, you have here two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, coming together in Joshua Tree. The park is also a mosaic of natural and human history. Twisted rocks, water scoured canyons and some very cool and surreal granite monoliths hint at those immense forces that continue to shape this landscape. And the imprint of the American Indians, cattlemen, and miners is evident everywhere. With approximately 800,000 acre of wilderness, you will have wonderful opportunity for exploration and getting lost in nature. Camping, hiking, climbing, astronomy, birding and four-wheeling can all be part of your itinerary. And the park's extensive interpretive exhibits will provide you enough information to transform you into a Joshua Tree expert.

For our temporary home, we chose Belle Campground. It was by far one of the smallest campgrounds with only 18 sites (versus over 100) and Belle featured about six sites that were spacious, private and could accommodate our truck and trailer. As the other campgrounds all had sites that were occupied, we were quite surprised to be the only campers each night in our secluded campground. We loved the silence, the darkness and only our own distorted firelight shadows on the clusters of boulders surrounding us.

Well, with the clear skies come low temperatures! Each night the temps got down to freezing, even less with the wind. We kept snug with the help of our Mr. Heater Buddy. We turned it on to warm our coach prior to bedtime and again in the morning. Our trailer’s furnace, which was set low, kept the rig’s temperature tolerable in between. RVers know that running your house furnace throughout the night is the fastest way to burn up your propane, so in very cold weather, you need to wear your “bunny feet pajamas” or have a partner with hot flashes…I have both!

We ventured out many times in the desert near our campsite and went on a few short trail hikes. Because doggies can't go on the trails, we opted to take shorter hikes so Sydney does not feel too left out. Jumbo Rocks has many awesome boulder piles...for climbing, scrambling or just as viewing platforms of this magnificent desert. The Skull Rock trail is pretty popular and unique as you can explore all the boulder "condos", desert washes and namesake Skull Rock.

The Split Rock Trail is a 3-mile loop trail that provides a miniature perspective of this desert's fauna and Joshua is so huge, it is sometimes hard to grasp. Joshua Tree's Rock formations, particularly those in the Hidden Valley are a rock climbers mecca. We imagine that there must be times when the rocks are dotted with athletes testing their skills on many climbs rated Class 5.5 and beyond. We stayed in the Class 3 and below category...boulder hopping, some climbing and mostly hiking from ledge to ledge. 

You feel like testing your off road driving skills? Try the Geology Tour Road. It is an 18-mile motor tour guiding you through some of the most fascinating landscapes in the park. There is soft sand and steep grades, recommended for 4-wheel drive vehicles, but if you have a vehicle with cojones and enjoy the drive by going slower, you should have no problem. We never needed to be in 4-wheel drive mode. 

Joshua Tree National Park not only preserves an undisturbed population of Joshua Trees, but is home to some of the darkest skies in the United States and one of the best places in California to see the Milky Way.

Each evening, before the moon rose in the horizon, Imke went out to stargaze and each time came back to our rig quite amazed with the clarity and dazzling star show...ah, the beauty of the heavens. The night sky is a glittering dome peppered with stars, planets and passing meteors. And darn those commercial jets to interrupt you. So how do you describe an endless blanket of stars that seem to be within your grasp? Or share the vision of being a grain of sand illuminated by millions of candles?

At Waypoint 34.001600 -116.020890
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